Huế and Cry

21 01 2011

Michele, Audrey and I had all been on separate buses to the old imperial capital city of Huế; Sod’s Law meant that my bus was 2 hours later arriving than their buses. My bus was late leaving Hoi An itself and then we stopped so that the driver and his assistant could get a motorbike out of the luggage storage. They then spent half an hour fixing the wheel back onto it so that the motorcyclist could go on his way – it seemed a bit above and beyond the call of duty with so many other passengers on the bus. A few more random stops in the middle of nowhere and a random police check were all it took to really delay us. Although the bus journey was during the day, it was actually a sleeper bus (probably because it was possible to continue all the way to Hanoi) and I had the pleasure of sharing a 3-person bed with 2 cute German girls. They were a bit young though so I barely exchanged any words with them. Maud had been on my bus too so we set off on foot towards the main hotel area.  After a few wrong turns and asking directions I made it to the Tran Ly hotel for my reservation and Maud tried to check into the backpackers hostel around the corner.

The weather in Hue was bleak. Whilst Hoi An had raised occasionally, here it was unrelenting and it was a few degrees colder too. In the afternoon, Audrey went off on a mini pilgrimage to find the meditation temple of the guy whose book she was currently reading; whilst Michele and I headed to the citadel north of the Perfume river. A lot of the buildings were heavily bombed by the Americans in 1968 so it was hard to gauge the full scope of the citadel but it must have been very impressive in its day. On the way in the woman on the gate managed to give me 10,000 dong change instead of the 100,000 that I was due. Quite how she managed this when I’d been in the country so long I’m not sure – still, a bit later on, I then found 3000 dong (less than 25¢). It wasn’t a wasted day after all.


Hue citadel

We braved the incessant rain for a couple of hours and then decided to head for a drink in the Backpackers hostel. The bar was a lively place and it was like some of the better hostels that I remembered in South America. I hadn’t seen any decent modern hostels since my first Asian stop in Siem Reap so I was quite excited to hear that there was also a brand-new one by the same people in Hanoi. The hostel had a lot of fun features too – the flavoured vodkas included arse and el whacko (a lethally hot chilli vodka) and there were clocks showing the time in places across the world such as Sex Moan in the Philippines and Twatt in Scotland.


Times from around the world

We met up with Audrey again for dinner – somewhat average sushi in a Japanese restaurant around the corner from my hotel – and then she went home. Michele and I went for a few drinks in the Backpackers and then moved on to the Why Not bar. Here we ran into Maud again. She was drinking bottles of vodka with another French guy, Jan. As we left there, Jan seemed very much the worse for wear and we had to take turns carrying him down the street. Eventually we decided to put him in the back of a cyclo; gave the driver the instructions for his hotel and paid him upfront. I’m not sure if this really worked; Jan said he had no money left the next day so it’s possible he paid him again and well over the odds or even that he passed out and got all his money stolen! The girls and I went for a few more drinks in the DMZ bar and even did a bit of abysmal dancing but when they closed the bar there it was time to head home for the evening.


Maud and Michele dancing in DMZ


The next day was completely uneventful; the weather hardly engendered the desire to explore further. We met Maud and (a sheepish) Jan for lunch and then spent the afternoon biding our time for the night bus to Hoi An. At one point we went to the Backpackers bar (ostensibly to book a dorm for the next night in Hanoi but also because they sold beer) and ran into Chris and Vic from Hoi An again. We shared a few quick beers with them before it was time to head off. Audrey was going to stay behind an extra night – I think I’d have topped myself if I had to spend longer in Hue – but we were due to meet her the day after in Hanoi.

A little minibus picked us up and dropped us off at the bus offices; after everyone had assembled there we were all frog-marched another 100 metres to a completely random spot in the road. Quite why the minibus hadn’t dropped us there in the first place is truly a mystery. Eventually the bus turned up and we headed towards Hanoi. I decided to watch Scott Pilgrim versus the World on my laptop to pass the time – it has to be one of the most bizarre films I’ve seen in a while but it was very entertaining.